How to avoid the cowboys
June 7, 2013
Given the current debate about regulation in the residential property sector – and the length of time it’s taking to reach consensus – vendors and landlords looking to appoint an estate agent must remain vigilant if they’re to avoid rogue agents.
- Play web detective
- Standing out from the crowd
- What are they marketing?
- Test the agent
- Don’t be afraid to ask
- First impressions really do count
- Avoid hidden charges at all cost
- Lettings retention and renewals
- How do they manage?
Play web detective
Take the time to play web detective and fully research the agent’s website. It is a good start to see if they are members of any professional associations, if they have won any awards and whether their information is easily navigable, up to date and accurate.
Standing out from the crowd
With more than 80% of house hunters turning to the web for their property search, online marketing has never been more important, but it takes more than just signing up to property portals to keep ahead of the competition.
Does the agent use twitter or Facebook to share property with a wider audience and do they advertise directly online or is your property left languishing, lost on the portals?
What are they marketing?
Agents listing properties similar to yours should have a clear idea about rental and sale values, a greater understanding of the local area, and potentially a long line of registered applicants already seeking property in comparable areas and price brackets.
Test the agent
A quick way of testing if an agent is worth their salt is simply asking them about Home Information Packs, Energy Performance Certificates, Gas Safety Certificates and Tenants Deposit Protection. A good agent should be able to talk about these confidently and explain your legal obligations when selling or letting.
Don’t be afraid to ask!
Prepare a checklist of questions; make sure the agent is knowledgeable about the market, questioning them specifically about any local amenities the area has to offer, the demographics of the target market and how well your property would fit into this. You’ll also want to check what the demand is likely to be and how quickly they think they can sell or rent your property.
First impressions really do count
Is the agent responsive and do they follow up your enquiry with an informed answer?
Their initial contact could well be indicative of their professionalism and how the business is run so first impressions really do count!
Avoid hidden charges at all cost
Avoid getting stung by hidden costs; any reputable agent should be transparent and upfront about their fees from the beginning. Don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest agent you come across; make sure you are clear on their charges and investigate the full range of services and the quality of service they offer.
Lettings retention and renewals
If looking for a lettings agent, do the tenants generally stay for the duration and how many tend to renew their tenancy?
In terms of renewals, remember, the agent should be negotiating on your behalf to achieve the best possible rental and aim to avoid renewals coming at a point in the year when demand is low (e.g. close to Christmas).
How do they manage
Any letting agent with a strong property management team should have reliable contractors to relieve any potential headaches. Are their maintenance firms members of any professional bodies.
Ask them to advice on the cost of typical maintenance jobs and how soon they would expect to have someone on site after a reported problem.